Free People Create Economic Growth, Obama Says

Fascism and communism have failed for the same reason, Obama said: “They ignore the ultimate source of power and legitimacy — the will of the people.”

By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer

Washington,
17 November 2011

A country’s greatest economic resource is the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of its people, President Obama says, and open and accountable governments that treat all of their citizens equally and with dignity are in a better position to enjoy economic growth that will benefit everyone in their society.

“History shows that, over the long run, democracy and economic growth go hand in hand. And prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty,” Obama said November 17 in a speech to the Australian Parliament in Canberra.

The United States, Australia and others who value universal freedoms are advancing the rights of women, minorities, indigenous cultures and all people because “when societies harness the potential of all their citizens, these societies are more successful, they are more prosperous and they are more just,” he said.

Free markets have been “the greatest force the world has ever known for creating wealth and opportunity,” he said, and both countries are working together to encourage transparent economies, free and fair trade, and an international economic system with clear rules that every nation follows.

Economic partnerships cannot be only about one nation extracting another’s resources, Obama said. “We understand that no long-term strategy for growth can be imposed from above.”

Real prosperity that fosters innovation and is enduring “comes from unleashing our greatest economic resource, and that’s the entrepreneurial spirit, the talents of our people,” he said.

Economic growth needs to be environmentally sustainable and encourage clean energy and jobs that will help combat climate change, he said, acknowledging that “as countries with large carbon footprints, the United States and Australia have a special responsibility to lead.”

But Obama also said fair economic growth includes the need to respect the rights of workers, allow fair business competition, and protect intellectual property and new technology, which are driving innovation, and economic growth should be “not just for the few, but for the many.”

Balanced economic growth can allow everyone to prosper if countries with large surpluses will take action to boost demand at home, the president said. In addition, consumers need to be protected from abuse, and there needs to be a global commitment to end corruption.

Obama said systems such as fascism and communism, where one man or one committee rules over a whole country, have failed for the same reason: “They ignore the ultimate source of power and legitimacy — the will of the people.”

Despite their ebbs and flows, the currents of history have decisively moved in a single direction, he said. “History is on the side of the free — free societies, free governments, free economies, free people. And the future belongs to those who stand firm for those ideals, in this region and around the world.”