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America and the Golden Age of Capitalism

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I was trading in the S&P pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on the day the Berlin Wall fell.  I had a sense that something truly historical was taking place—it would have been impossible not to—but with the pressure of the session and a newborn baby whom I couldn’t wait to get home to, I didn’t stop to grasp the enormity of the events that were unfolding.  

It wasn’t until I spoke with my father, an Armenian immigrant who loved the United States more than anyone I’ve ever known, that the big picture came into focus.

America won,” he said.

Sounds simple, but it was really quite profound. He wasn’t talking about one army vanquishing another. He wasn’t talking about the arms race or the space race or any of the hot conflicts that erupted during the 50-year Cold War. He was talking about an idea.

This was a man whose parents survived the Turks but lost 40 members of their family. A man who experienced terrible loss and religious persecution first hand. A man who waited seven years to come to this country as a refugee and kissed the ground when he arrived.

My father was a man who truly cherished his inalienable rights and never took them for granted a day in his life.

He was talking about an idea because, to him, America itself was an idea. On November 9, 1989, communism became a failed experiment. The American experiment would carry on. We had just won the ideological war.

Like in any war, to the victor goes the spoils. But since this was a different kind of war, there was also a different kind of prize. Instead of cultural artifacts or new territories, the reward was more abstract: an entire world that would soon be open for business.

No longer would the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great be contained by our borders. America was free to export the twin miracles of democracy and capitalism to every corner of the world.

And export we did. In the 22 years since capitalism triumphed, just about every country on Earth has embraced a U.S.-style freemarket economy—and with passionate enthusiasm at that. Corporations are reporting record earnings thanks to exploding consumer demand in emerging markets that were barely on the radar 30 years ago—places like Brazil, India and China (which is communist in name only). Social mobility, the great ancillary effect of a free market, has not only created a middle-class consumer culture in those places, it’s actually created wealth.  

Growing up, I always considered the golden age of capitalism to be that post-World War II period of expansion. But it wasn’t. The golden age of capitalism is in front of us.

As the global growth story continues at a break-neck clip, we find ourselves in the relative infancy of what I believe will be a prolonged period of prosperity. Looking back in history, as the Jesuits at Loyola University taught me to do, the Pax Romana—a 200-year stretch of tranquility and plenty throughout the Roman Empire that followed the fall of Athens—immediately comes to mind. Today, the entire world—including our former enemies in China and Russia—has decided our way is the right way. They’ve taken our invention and run with it. The conditions of opportunity that once only existed in the United States now exist all over the globe. And those conditions will only grow more favorable going forward.

Why, then, is my fellow Chicagoan trying to rebuild those walls of socialism?

By embracing policy that favors higher taxes, increased regulation and protectionism, the Obama administration has spent two years systematically dismantling everything this country has been building since the Founding Fathers unleashed their libertarian concept of enlightened self interest 250 years ago.

Earlier, I mentioned Pax Romana and how this period in front of us echoes that era. Take a look at what one of the early architects of that earlier golden age, the political philosopher and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, had to say about the way government should be run:

The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

This was written in 55 B.C., but it’s as true today as it was then. A diminishing usefulness of the private sector and the redistributingof wealth by a bloated central government is unacceptable and should be resolutely resisted by every American.

The golden age of capitalism, what I believe will be our finest hour, is in front of us. We know that an occasional liberal in the White House cannot destroy the American entrepreneurial spirit, but we still muststand together to defend it.

America, today, is in its rightful place as the leader of a free-market world. We conquered our adversaries and created a new order. The entire world is open for business.

The time has come to finally enjoy those spoils of war.

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