While one can debate the virtues of the free market, there are some things about it that are clear: First, it has raised more people out of poverty than any utopian economic system proffered as an alternative. Second, it does an excellent job at distributing resources — far better than the heavy hand of centralized government planning.

Indeed, “freedom” was largely understood throughout the history of modern political philosophy to mean free markets as well as freedom of conscience and movement and the other essential freedoms. It is no mistake that the most brutal regimes in human history have treated the notion of property rights as little more than an obstacle on the road to human equality.

The competition of a free and open market leads to greater goods to meet greater needs of greater numbers of people. Closing down free and open markets delegates the task of deciding what and how much of something people need to a centralized, and often unaccountable, bureaucrat.

None of this is to say that free market capitalism is without its problems. But it has nothing in the way of meaningful alternatives. The men who speak below understood this. See what they have to say about the benefits — and the comparative pitfalls — of the free market.


Quotes About Competition and the Free Market

Arthur Melvin Okun

“The market, if it can be kept honest and competitive, does provide very strong incentives for work effort and productive contributions. In their absence, society would thrash about for alternative incentives-some unreliable, like altruism; some perilous like collective loyalty; some intolerable, like coercion or oppression.”

Arthur Melvin Okun

Arthur Melvin Okun on Free Market Quotes

Arthur Melvin Okun’s quote underscores the fundamental role of the market in motivating productive contributions. He highlights its capacity to incentivize work effort through competition and honesty. Okun warns against the consequences of lacking such incentives, suggesting that society would struggle to find effective alternatives. He cautions against unreliable motivations like altruism, perilous ones like collective loyalty, and intolerable methods like coercion or oppression. In essence, Okun advocates for maintaining the integrity and competitiveness of the market as a means to foster productivity and prevent the adoption of potentially harmful or oppressive alternatives.

Calvin Coolidge

“When once the right of the individual to liberty and equality is admitted, there is no escape from the conclusion that he alone is entitled to the rewards of his own industry. Any other conclusion would necessarily imply either privilege or servitude.”

Calvin Coolidge, Address to the Holy Name Society, Washington, D.C., September 21, 1924

Calvin Coolidge on Free Market Quotes

In this statement, Calvin Coolidge asserts the inherent connection between individual rights, particularly liberty and equality, and the entitlement to the fruits of one’s labor. He argues that once these rights are acknowledged, it logically follows that individuals should reap the rewards of their own efforts. Coolidge warns that any deviation from this principle would inevitably result in either privilege, where some benefit unfairly, or servitude, where others are unjustly subjugated. This assertion underscores his belief in the importance of upholding individual rights and autonomy as essential foundations of a just and equitable society.

Calvin Coolidge

“I would like it if the country could think as little as possible about the Government and give their time and attention more undividedly about the conduct of the private business of the country.”

Calvin Coolidge, The Talkative President

Calvin Coolidge on Free Market Quotes

In this succinct statement, Calvin Coolidge advocates for a limited role of government in the affairs of the nation. He expresses a desire for citizens to focus their energies on private enterprise rather than government matters. Coolidge emphasizes the importance of individual initiative and the private sector’s ability to drive economic progress. By encouraging minimal government interference, he suggests that greater attention and effort can be directed towards the private business sector, fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth. This sentiment reflects Coolidge’s belief in limited government intervention and his trust in the capacity of private enterprise to thrive when left relatively unencumbered by excessive regulation.

Calvin Coolidge

“Where commerce has flourished there civilization has increased… Today it is not the battle fleet, but the mercantile marine which in the end will determine the destiny of nations.”

Calvin Coolidge, Brockton Chamber of Commerce, Brockton, MA, April, 11, 1916

Calvin Coolidge on Free Market Quotes

In this statement, Calvin Coolidge underscores the vital role of commerce in advancing civilization and shaping the fate of nations. He highlights the historical correlation between flourishing commerce and societal progress. Coolidge contends that in the contemporary era, the influence of naval power has been eclipsed by the significance of a strong merchant marine. He suggests that economic prowess and trade networks now wield greater influence over a nation’s destiny than military might alone. This perspective reflects Coolidge’s recognition of the evolving dynamics of global power and the central importance of economic strength in shaping the future trajectory of nations.

Calvin Coolidge

“I favor the policy of economy…because I wish to save people…Economy is idealism in its most practical form.”

Calvin Coolidge, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1925

Calvin Coolidge on Free Market Quotes

In his inaugural address, Calvin Coolidge champions the principle of fiscal prudence, asserting that his support for economic austerity stems from a desire to serve the interests of the people. He sees frugality not merely as a financial strategy but as a manifestation of idealism translated into practical action. Coolidge believes that by prioritizing economy, resources can be conserved and directed towards beneficial ends, ultimately improving the welfare of the populace. This viewpoint reflects his conviction that responsible governance entails safeguarding the nation’s resources for the betterment of society, portraying economy as a pragmatic expression of altruistic ideals.

Jim Rohn

“America is unique because it offers you an economic ladder to climb. And here’s what’s exciting: It’s the bottom of the ladder that’s crowded, not the top.”

Jim Rohn, The Treasury of Quotes

Jim Rohn on Free Market Quotes

Jim Rohn encapsulates the essence of American exceptionalism by highlighting the nation’s distinctive economic landscape. He emphasizes the accessibility of upward mobility through an “economic ladder,” where individuals can ascend to higher socioeconomic levels. Rohn’s observation that the bottom of the ladder is crowded suggests a multitude of individuals striving for advancement, underscoring America’s reputation as a land of opportunity. The notion that the top of the ladder is not overcrowded implies that success is attainable for those willing to put in the effort, fostering a spirit of aspiration and possibility within American society.

Niccolò Machiavelli

“Again, a Prince should show himself a patron of merit, and should honour those who excel in every art. He ought accordingly to encourage his subjects by enabling them to pursue their callings, whether mercantile, agricultural, or any other, in security, so that this man shall not be deterred from beautifying his possessions from the apprehension that they may be taken from him, or that other refrain from opening a trade through fear of taxes; and he should provide rewards for those who desire so to employ themselves, and for all who are disposed in any way to add to the greatness of his City or State.”

Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli on Free Market Quotes

Niccolò Machiavelli, in this quote, underscores the importance of a ruler being a patron of talent and merit within his domain. He emphasizes the need for a prince to recognize and honor excellence in all fields, fostering an environment where individuals are encouraged to pursue their crafts without fear of interference or punitive measures. Machiavelli advocates for policies that promote security and incentivize innovation and productivity, whether in commerce, agriculture, or any other endeavor. By rewarding those who contribute to the advancement and prosperity of the city or state, the prince ensures the growth and greatness of his realm.

Gordon Gekko

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

Gordon Gekko’s character, Wall Street

Gordon Gekko on Free Market Quotes

In this memorable quote from the character Gordon Gekko in the movie “Wall Street,” he unabashedly extols the virtues of greed. Gekko argues that greed is a driving force behind progress, asserting that it motivates individuals to strive for success and advancement. He suggests that greed serves as a clarifying agent, focusing human ambition and propelling society forward. Gekko’s viewpoint, although controversial, reflects a perspective that values ambition, determination, and self-interest as essential components of human nature and societal evolution. However, it also raises questions about the moral implications of unchecked greed and its impact on ethics and social harmony.

Bernard Mandeville

“Then leave Complaints: Fools only strive

To make a Great an honest Hive.

T’ enjoy the World’s Conveniences,

Be famed in War, Yet live in Ease

Without great Vices, is a vain

Eutopia seated in the Brain.

Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live

Whilst we the Benefits receive.

Hunger’s a dreadful Plague, no doubt,

Yet who digests or strives without?

Do we not owe the Growth of Wine

To the dry shabby crooked Vine?”

Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees

Bernard Mandeville on Free Market Quotes

Bernard Mandeville’s verses from “The Fable of the Bees” challenge conventional notions of virtue and societal harmony. He contends that striving for a utopian society without vices is futile and unrealistic. Mandeville provocatively suggests that fraud, luxury, and pride are intrinsic to human progress and the enjoyment of worldly comforts. He argues that even undesirable traits contribute to the benefits society reaps. Mandeville’s complex perspective prompts reflection on the interplay between vice and virtue, questioning whether an idealized existence devoid of vices is achievable or even desirable in the grand scheme of human civilization.

Murray Rothbard

“Free-market capitalism is a network of free and voluntary exchanges in which producers work, produce, and exchange their products for the products of others through prices voluntarily arrived at.”

Murray Rothbard

Murray Rothbard on Free Market Quotes

Murray Rothbard succinctly defines free-market capitalism as a system of voluntary exchanges driven by individual producers. In this framework, producers engage in work, production, and exchange, all without coercion, underpinned by the mechanism of prices determined through voluntary agreements. Rothbard emphasizes the freedom inherent in this economic model, where transactions occur based on mutual agreement rather than compulsion. This description encapsulates the core principles of free-market capitalism, highlighting the role of voluntary interaction and price signals in coordinating economic activities and allocating resources efficiently within the market system.

Murray Rothbard

“The process of exchange enables man to ascend from primitive isolation to civilization: it enormously widens his opportunities and the market for his wares; it enables him to invest in machines and other “high-order capital goods”; … it forms a pattern of exchanges – the free market – which enables him to calculate economically the benefits and the costs of highly complex methods and aggregates of production.”

Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty

Murray Rothbard on Free Market Quotes

In this quote from “The Ethics of Liberty,” Murray Rothbard outlines the transformative power of the exchange process in human civilization. Rothbard argues that exchange serves as a mechanism for individuals to transition from isolation to interconnectedness, expanding their opportunities and markets for their goods. Moreover, he highlights how exchange facilitates investment in advanced capital goods, fostering economic progress and innovation. Rothbard emphasizes the role of the free market in enabling individuals to calculate the costs and benefits of intricate production methods, ultimately contributing to the development and optimization of complex economic systems within society.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“After all, as Prokhorov said, “Money nowadays comes in two stories.” What Westerners could comprehend “two-story money”? A lathe operator during the war received, after deductions, eight hundred rubles a month, and bread cost 140 rubles on the open market. And that meant that in the course of one month he did not earn enough for even six kilos of bread, over and above his ration. In other words, he could not bring home even seven ounces a day for his whole family! But at the same time he did… live. With frank and open impudence they paid the workers an unreal wage, and let them go and seek “the second story.” And the person who paid our plasterer [at the Kaluga Gates prison camp] insane money [200 rubles] for his evening’s work also got to the “second story” on his own in some particular way. Thus it was that the socialist system triumphed, but only on paper. The old ways—tenacious, flexible—never died out, as a result of either curses or persecution by the prosecutors.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on Free Market Quotes

In this excerpt from “The Gulag Archipelago,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn delves into the dual nature of money in the Soviet Union, as described by Prokhorov. The term “two-story money” symbolizes the disparity between official wages and the actual purchasing power in the economy. Solzhenitsyn vividly illustrates how the nominal wages of workers were insufficient to meet basic needs, forcing them to engage in underground economic activities to survive. Despite the socialist regime’s attempts to enforce its economic principles, the resilience of traditional, unofficial methods of survival persisted. Solzhenitsyn’s narrative exposes the harsh reality beneath the facade of Soviet economic success, revealing the enduring human struggle for survival amidst oppressive systems.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on Free Market Quotes

In this profound statement, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn delves into the complex relationship between freedom and equality. He suggests that inherent differences in individuals’ capacities naturally lead to inequality. However, he argues that true freedom allows for these disparities to exist, acknowledging and respecting the uniqueness of each person. Conversely, attempts to enforce equality through coercion or regulation inevitably infringe upon individual liberty. Solzhenitsyn’s insight challenges the notion of equality as an absolute ideal, emphasizing the importance of preserving freedom even in the face of inherent inequalities. It serves as a thought-provoking reflection on the balance between individual autonomy and societal equality.