|Abstract||The best way to understand a demand for freedom is to consider what it is directed against. The free enterprise movement began in the 18th century as a protest against various restrictions on business enterprise imposed by governments and by corporations sanctioned by government. Corporations (guilds, colleges, companies, universities) had existed since Roman times, ostensibly to guarantee their member's good behaviour, and especially good service to the public. But they served their members' interests also at the expense of the public by restricting competition. Non-members were excluded from the trade; to become a member one had to serve a long and low-paid apprenticeship to an established member, and to pay various sums of money (for entry fee, graduation fee, compulsory gifts and banquets, etc.). Government sanctioned these practices, and imposed restrictions of its own, ostensibly in the public interest, but also to raise revenue and to provide fees and bribes for officials: the guild had to pay for its monopoly. Viewed cynically, government was an ancient and successful branch of organised crime, a respectable protection racket.|
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