Freedom: Our Most Important Asset

Originally published in State Policy Network

Matt Mitchell discusses the importance of freedom to society in fostering prosperity,

The tour bus wound its way along the narrow road through the thicket of jungle trees. Our faces pressed against the glass; we tried to take in as many sights as we could. But the rainforest was dense and close. There wasn’t much to see but the forest wall as we zoomed past.Every so often, the forest would give way to a clearing and we’d catch a glimpse of human activity: a house or a hut—often just a tent or a tarp strung between a few trees. “Activity” isn’t quite the right word. Usually, we saw human inactivity. People sat. They stared. They clearly had nowhere to be and nothing to do.When we reached Chichen Itza, once one of the largest cities in the Mayan world, my wife and I were struck by the contrast. Along the long walk from the bus to the ruins, human activity abounded: eager entrepre-“One of the most important of these invisible assets is human freedom. Those who have it prosper. Those who don’t stagnate.”1neurs sold touristy T-shirts; justifiably proud artisans displayed beautiful handicrafts. These people had somewhere to be and something to do. But despite their spirit, it was clear that life was not easy for many. Soiled clothes betrayed the grinding poverty in which they lived. How strange to see such want in the midst of the ruins of a once-great civilization