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  • Judge Jim Gray

Free Markets

How is it that the United States has led the free world since the end of World War II? Yes, democracy and individual liberty have been successful in achieving our standard of living and freedom of choice, but that alone is not the reason. The main reason is that we have combined those with the phenomenon of free markets to build our economy and prosper, and this has worked for two important reasons. First, the market is much more able effectively to set prices than any government bureaucracy the world has ever seen. Most of the time government spending often leads to misallocation of resources and bureaucratic inefficiencies in almost total contrast to the dynamic and adaptive nature of free markets. And, second, individual liberty that enables people to profit from their labors breeds diligence, creativity and success. So that is why traditionally people from all over the world have yearned to come to America. Until recent times these immigrants have not come here to receive government welfare, but instead they have come to pursue the American Dream! And they have done this by rolling up their sleeves and working hard so they can be successful and provide far better lives for themselves and their children than they could possibly have attained in their home country. Tell the truth, if you lived in China, Venezuela, Russia or Iran, wouldn’t you want to come to and live in the United States as well?

But, probably starting with President Lyndon Johnson’s so-called “War on Poverty” back in the middle 1960s, we have seen an increasing threat to our country’s successful way of life. Why? Because we have substituted government largesse for a strong work ethic. Accordingly, in our government today many people ask themselves “Why should I get a good education and work hard when I can show I am a victim – for whatever reason – and receive a government handout?” As John Stossel put it in an editorial under the heading of “Free Markets Are Truly Miraculous” in the December 31, 2023 edition of the Orange County Register: “Welfare created something never seen before in America: a near-permanent ‘underclass.’ Welfare told parents: don’t get married: you’ll lose benefits. Don’t work: your check will be reduced. Above all, make sure the father isn’t home when a welfare worker comes. If he is, your check may be reduced or eliminated.” And many people have listened, and focused upon being entitled, which is harmful both to those people as well as to our country at large. Yes, if people have truly special needs, they should be helped. But don’t take away anyone’s incentives to plan and work for a better life. And allow the private sector first to attempt to assist those people, with government serving only as a back-up. Then everyone will come out ahead, except the now overwhelmingly large and growing government bureaucracies. This article is an edited reprint of an original post published on Judge Jim Gray's site. The views expressed in it are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, and presently works as a private mediator and arbitrator for ADR Services, Inc. He was also the 2012 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and can be contacted at, or through his website at

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