A recent Pew Research Center study, The American-Western European Values Gap, shows that the U.S. is unique in its percentages of:

  • People who believe that “freedom to pursue life’s goals without state interference” is more important than “state guarantees [that] nobody is in need,”
  • People who disagree that “success in life is determined by forces outside our control.”

The percentage of people who think it is more important that the “state guarantees nobody is in need” aligns roughly with the percentage who believe that “success in life is determined by forces outside their control.” This is no coincidence.

In his classic book The Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek makes a distinction between two types of economic freedom:

The economic freedom which is the prerequisite of any other freedom cannot be the freedom from economic care which the socialists promise us and which can be obtained only by relieving the individual at the same time of the necessity and of the power of choice: it must be the freedom of economic activity which, with the right of choice, inevitably also carries the risk and the responsibility of that right.

The two “freedoms” cannot exist alongside one another. Freedom of economic activity is indeed the freedom to choose.