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Why the free market and Western Civilization need defending

On July 13, 2012, President Obama was giving a speech in Roanoke, Virginia, and said this: “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”


Those three sentences sparked a brushfire in that year’s presidential election that he spent the next few weeks trying to walk back. “Of course, Americans build their own businesses,” he said on camera four days later.


But while the third sentence tried to take credit away from entrepreneurs, and the second sentence tried to give that credit to the government because of roads and bridges, President Obama’s first sentence was 100% true.


Twelve years later, that “unbelievable American system” he lauded is under assault.


I’m a very blessed person. I’ve had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of people to build an incredible wealth tech company. Thanks to all their hard work, we created a massive ripple effect of wealth creation — everyone had more.


Why is the United States home to so many of these incredible stories? How did we, after only 248 years, manage to create nearly a quarter of the world’s wealth, even though we’re only about 5% of the world’s population?

It’s because of that unbelievable free-market system we created, and its two foundational elements.

  • The rule of law — I knew that if we played by the rules, we’d be allowed to prosper.

  • Private property rights — the teachers’ pension funds were willing to trade their hard-earned capital for our stock certificates, because they knew the system would protect their rights to that value.


Of course, there was a basic governmental framework in place as well. We need police and prosecutors to enforce the law. We need roads and bridges. We need a fire department. We need a military to defend us.


But let’s be clear — China has police, roads, bridges, and a military. So does Russia. So does Cuba. So does Venezuela, and every other country where poverty is starving people to death.


What they don’t have is a system that uses the rule of law and private property rights to create wealth for their people.


And on the spectrum of systems from capitalism and communism, every country that slides closer to communism slides further down the GDP-per-capita chart of less prosperity for their citizens.


The math doesn’t lie.


Despite all this, the 2020s have borne witness to a withering assault on the foundations of our free-market system.


The aggressors seek to tear down the rule of law, private property rights, abundant resources, reliable energy, the pursuit of knowledge, technological innovation, and growth in productivity.


It’s systematic — and it’s not an accident.

  • We are shutting down perfectly good power plants and refusing to replace them with reliable sources of energy.

  • Several universities (and many big corporations) have swapped “equality” for “equity of outcomes,” creating an army of bureaucrats to systematically erase actual diversity and inclusion.

  • We’ve created a web of laws, rules, reviews, permits, taxes and fees that make it insanely expensive to build anything great. California has spent $10 billion building precisely zero operational miles of its high-speed rail system.

  • Many in Congress want to tax “unrealized” paper gains in stock market value, which would force any growing business to be sold to a big corporation, just to cover taxes.


Whether the activists working against our country’s free-market foundation label themselves socialists, communists, collectivists or totalitarians, their assault on our system will destroy the future prosperity of my kids and yours — and we can’t allow them to succeed.


This is one of the reasons I recently joined the board of Mountain States Policy Center, a non-partisan think tank helping to make sure the best free-market policy ideas take root in the mountain states.


The bottom line?


It’s time to just say no to these de-growth activists who want to tear down the progress of Western civilization. If we truly want to pay it forward to future generations, it’s the only course we can take.


Aaron Klein co-founded and serves on the board of Nitrogen, a wealth tech software company. He is also a board member at Mountain States Policy Center, an independent research organization based in Idaho, Montana, Eastern Washington and Wyoming. Online at

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