News Story

Children Appreciate the Value of Economic Freedom

Why can't politicians?

It doesn’t take an economics degree to understand the value of growth, freedom and prosperity.

In fact, you don't have to be old enough to enroll in college to appreciate those things and the free market that makes them possible. During the 2016 Detroit Children's Business Fair, children ranging from six to 14-years-old tried their hands at the free market, selling products they had created.

A video from the fair features participants giving their views on the kinds of policy issues that confront adult business routinely.

“What a great video,” said Sarah Estelle, a professor of economics at Hope College. “The earnestness of these young people is refreshing. They are experienced enough to understand the basic yet powerful principles of trade, but young enough to not be embarrassed to answer honestly,” she added.

Jason Taylor, a professor of economics at Central Michigan University, and like Estelle, a member of the Mackinac Center's Board of Scholars, was also impressed by the children’s answers. But he was not surprised.

“It may seem remarkable for some, especially policymakers in Washington, to see just how innate the desire to be an entrepreneur is. Kids don’t want to open a business just to make themselves better off. They see the inherent value in innovation and entrepreneurship with respect to bettering humanity.”

Taylor says he see similar insight at the college level, before students enter the workplace.

He says they become “incredibly riled up and shocked” when they discuss the progressive tax code, or government regulations laid down in the name of “protecting the public interest.”

Estelle was most impressed by the children’s insight into what drives a successful business.

“Their answers reflect the notion that a business has multiple stakeholders, including customers and employees. Certainly the owner of a firm benefits from the firm’s success, but even these young entrepreneurs recognized the opportunity that profits provide to innovate and expand their businesses,” said Estelle. “You hear all the logic in their responses,” she added.

Taylor contrasted the children's thinking with that of politicians.

“People vote for representatives that advocate policies hostile toward markets because almost none of the entrenched politicians on the ballot with a D or an R next to their name are market friendly.”

“Once a person is in the power of government, the desire to tinker, fine-tune, and control is unfortunately irresistible,” he continued. “And the longer one is in power, the stronger this desire becomes. These politicians may view themselves as benevolent and markets as evil. But the kids know where it's at,” said Taylor.

The Detroit Children’s Business Fair, hosted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan, is a two-hour marketplace where children can sell a product they create to the public. This year’s event featured 11 businesses, selling everything from food to jewelry to homemade toys and goods. The children can keep what they earn and compete for a cash prize.

The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Capitol Confidential.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.