Many of our younger generations may not realize that the American economy is fueled by free markets and free enterprise. Southwest Louisiana’s growth was spurred by a visionary entrepreneur, J.B. Watkins. He purchased thousands of acres, marketed it all over the nation, sold property, and according to articles, was basically a one-man chamber of commerce.
In the early 1900’s, another group of visionaries imagined a direct route from Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico so the area could export timber and rice. When federal funding was not provided, they raised private money and along with a Police Jury bond issue secured funding to build the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
Without that ship channel we would not have enjoyed thousands of jobs for several generations. We would not be experiencing today’s unprecedented growth with industrial projects had it not been for the ship channel.
However, without support for free enterprise our great economy won’t continue. According to research released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one driver of younger Americans’ view may be their assessment of the economy and the ability to get ahead today. Adults under 40 were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “Nowadays most people have the opportunity to get ahead and build the life they want for themselves.” Only one in five strongly agreed. And women were almost as likely to disagree (42%) as they were to agree (49%).
Of those who think people don’t have the opportunity to get ahead, most say it is because: “the economy favors those who are already rich” (55%) and wages for most people are too low to get ahead (52%).
Younger Americans are concerned about their own access to upward mobility. When asked what they worry about, 45% select “not being able to make enough money to get ahead.” Not surprisingly, only one in four said that their “personal economic situation” was getting better these days, while similar levels (22%) report it is “getting worse.” Nearly half said it is staying about the same.
Most Americans don’t view capitalism and socialism in distinct “either-or” terms. According to a Pew Research poll, one in four Americans have a favorable view of both capitalism and socialism. This likely reflects the fact that many Americans see problems that either they do not believe the current economic system is solving and more to the point, are not convinced that socialism cannot address some problems.
Some key issues are: Having a better future for the next generation; having a good quality of life; having a secure retirement; keeping taxes low for the middle class; being able to manage the cost of living; having a system in which everyone gets a fair shot; and having a healthcare system that is affordable and accessible. Many Americans do not view solutions to these issues as a fight between two mutually exclusive economic systems.
Information is needed for our citizens to learn about the benefits of the free enterprise system.
Southwest Louisiana has an opportunity, unlike many areas of our country, to provide education and training so our residents can secure good jobs to provide for their families. If that happens, they will realize the positive benefits of the free enterprise system which will keep our area and the nation’s economy strong.