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The Key to Prosperity in the Southern Hemisphere and around the World

Remarks delivered to the Freedom Reception, hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, at the recent Conservatives International: Americas conference

We are here at the beginning.  It provides an opportunity to move ahead with forethought and deliberation.  It is clear where we want to go. We have gathered under the banner of Conservatives International to answer the important questions that allow developing economies to avoid the pitfalls that lead to social collapse, like what we see in Venezuela, and to the slow economic growth we see in the U.S.

We’ve worked with many of you over the years. Some of you we are meeting for the first time. As a reminder to everyone, my name is Kent Lassman. I am the president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or CEI. 

CEI is an American-based think tank focused on economic regulation. CEI is the go-to organization to understand the effects of, and alternatives to, government regulation.

We know that the essential element of a vibrant society is the creation and availability of wealth. In all of recorded history, the strongest, most resilient, dependable system for the creation of wealth is capitalism. It has a moral underpinning. Capitalism demands that we think in terms of individuals and voluntary arrangements. It is indifferent to tribal attachments or the prejudices that fetter our minds. 

The beauty, and the bounty, of capitalism emerges when people are free to pursue a life of their own design.

I speak tonight with a great deal of humility. As an American, I’m all too aware that we have created the biggest, most expensive government the world has ever known. A key driver of its growth is the too-often hidden, and altogether dead hand of regulatory policy.

Regulation creates what our economist friends call reliance interests. You know these people. They fight to maintain the spoils of politically managed markets.

None of this fits well with what we know of the dynamic, emergent social and economic systems of a free society.

At CEI, scholars develop and advance policies in areas as diverse as energy and environmental policy, labor, finance, telecommunications and transportation. I encourage you to visit with CEI’s founder, Fred Smith, who leads a project to advance understanding and appreciation of capitalism.

I’m so very excited tonight because together we have the potential to put developing economies on a path to avoid the mistakes made in America and among our European friends.

Consider the implications of the following two ideas. The overwhelming majority of the world’s wealth has yet to be invented. Additionally, the greatest resource of all is human capital and ingenuity. 

The southern hemisphere is where the world’s greatest resource is growing. We must focus on the core elements of capitalism,

  1. Private ownership and clear property rights,
  2. The price system
  3. And, the rule of law.

Clear property rights – in everything from ourselves and our labor to natural resources – are necessary for the peaceful exchange of goods. Property rights come before commerce.

Prices convey vital information throughout society. It is an unencumbered price system that makes possible rational decision-making and the allocation of scarce resources.

And, without a stable, consistent and predictable system of law, the wealth of any society is pillaged by the strong. Without genuine rule of law, the future and its promise is sacrificed to the tyrants of today.

Thank you. Thank you for joining with CEI to put into practice these fundamental principles. Thank you for what you have done, and all that we will do together.