The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Hippies and drug dealers surrounded me. The houses and shops, covered in murals and graffiti, were cobbled together from the remaining scraps of the abandoned Danish naval base.

From the stalls along aptly-named Pusher Street , you could buy eclectic trinkets, questionable fashions and every sort of pipe, bubbler and bong imaginable. The sale of cannabis was barely concealed in the shadows nearby. The outdoor bar served local organic beers, and the biggest industry was a bicycle shop. The squatters’ paradise of Christiania made Carrboro look solidly right-wing.

And as I walked through this counter-cultural commune nestled within the Danish capital of Copenhagen, I could only think one thing: “I have never seen more capitalists in my life.”

Confused? Let me explain.

Free markets have taken a lot of heat recently. Wall Street bankers made fortunes from the destruction of Main Street, they say. We blame unchecked greed for wiping out savings and leaving so many unemployed. It’s certainly true that banks made huge mistakes, hurting millions of people around the world.

But looking to Wall Street as a shining example of free markets is like looking to John Edwards as an example of fidelity.

The essence of the free market is voluntary action. Christiania was built on little else.

Wall Street survives because we were forced to bail them out. Pusher Street, however, thrives solely on nonviolent, voluntary trade.

The same entrepreneurial spirit can be seen here in Chapel Hill. The Campus Y is raising money to alleviate the suffering in Haiti.

Scott Maitland expanded his operations at Top of the Hill with the new Great Room and Back Bar , with plans for a distillery. Adam Bliss is keeping his hookah bar open, and is choosing to fight the recent smoking ban rather than go out of business.

You’re part of a free market whenever you give blood, buy a hamburger, go on a date, send your mother a birthday card, donate to charity or plan a road trip.

Interacting with others voluntarily, without the use of force or fraud, is what best defines true free market societies.

Understanding free markets is crucial to America’s peace and prosperity. Life under the Bush administration saw a massive erosion of these peaceful principles.

America recently lost its ranking as a free economy in the Index of Economic Freedom, and it’s no surprise why. Wall Street has become a revolting capitalist-socialist hybrid, where profits are private but losses are John Q. Taxpayer’s concern.

Access to health care is limited by senseless regulations that stifle competition and lessen consumer choice of insurance.

For a true picture of the free market, forget the crony capitalism of Wall Street. Look to the independent risk takers of Pusher Street, Franklin Street and Main Streets across the nation.

They’re the ones making our world prosperous, creating value through trade rather than force. They accept that there are risks to business and that failure is possible. They don’t expect to be bailed out by their political buddies.

They, not the CEOs with multi-million dollar bonuses, are the true capitalists.

Tom Vanantwerp is a senior business major from Gastonia. Contact Tom at vanantwerp@gmail.com.

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