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The Issue

The core mission of The Heartland Institute is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. But what is the free market, and how does a free market promote a more vibrant economy?

The free market, simply put is an economic system where the prices for goods and services are determined by interactions within the open market by consumers and the forces of supply and demand free of external control or manipulation.

The free market promotes cooperation through rational self-interest, an idea that Adam Smith referred to as the “invisible hand,” giving every person the opportunity to improve their own lives. Milton Friedman, one of the great economic minds of the 20th century argued “The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.”

A free and open economy is essential to a free society. “The peaceful market competition of producers and suppliers is a profoundly cooperative process in which everyone benefits and where everyone’s living standard flourishes (compared with what it would be in an unfree society),” wrote economist Murray Rothbard in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

The opposite of a free market economy is one dominated by government control, subsidies and regulations. Rothbard once correctly observed in his book Man, Economy, and State that government regulations and subsidies “promote inefficiency in production and efficiency in coercion and subservience, while penalizing efficiency in production and inefficiency in predation.”

While no true free market exists today, the principles of open competition, low taxation and limited government interference in the open market serve as the bedrock of the American economy. The United States has embraced these principles and has not only seen unprecedented growth in our economy, but widespread prosperity and peace.

Our Stance

The Heartland Institute favors public policies that reduce the size and power of government and expand choice and freedom for citizens. We oppose government programs, regulations and tax regimes that favor some at the expense of others.

Featured Subtopics

Man peering into closed door meeting
Public officials try to pick winners and avoid losers, but experience shows they seldom succeed. It is far better to leave money in taxpayers’ hands than to give it to a few politically chosen individuals and businesses in the forlorn hope they will make the best investment decisions. Lower tax rates benefit the economy as a whole.
Scales showing wealthy person and many people
Increasing taxes on the “rich” is not the way to reduce inequality. Such taxes only make it more difficult for middle-class people to earn their way to upper-income status, thereby preserving the privileged status of the rich.
Man hailing a taxicab
The rise of the peer-to-peer sharing economy has dramatically changed multiple industries ranging from Uber and Lyft for transportation to Airbnb for hotels. New technologies have empowered both the entrepreneur and consumer to undertake new business arrangements which avoid the regulations and high startup costs of traditional businesses.

Additional Subtopics

  • Economic Development: Cities
  • Economic Development: Federal
  • Economic Development: States
  • Economic Theory
  • Economic Trends
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Globalization
  • Green Jobs
  • Infrastructure
  • Trade

Videos

Title: The Australian Libertarian: An Evening with Sen. David Leyonhjelm
Description: Sen. David Leyonhjelm, the only true libertarian in the Australian Parliament – a man many call the Ron Paul of the political scene Down Under – speaks at The Heartland Institute on April 12, 2017. The stop at Heartland was part of his week-long trip to the United States.

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