A COMMON MISSION

Anti-Defamation League
Lifetime of Achievement Award
Chicago, Illinois
June 5, 2001

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Ladies and Gentlemen, honored guests. For me, this award from the Anti-Defamation League is an honor of singular significance.

Those words might sound like a cliche uttered by countless honorees over a wide spectrum of awards that are meted out throughout our nation annually. In my case, it is not. The reason is simple. There is a clear and unmistakable nexus between the mission of the ADL and the one that has consumed most of my adult life.

For the ADL it has been a mission to combat bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance. For me it has been to promote free markets. While those may sound like completely divergent goals, I assure you they are not. The two missions are inexorably intertwined and enjoy a common denominator: The American Constitution.

In his book Free to Choose, Milton Friedman explains it best. He asserts that the story of the United States is a story of two separate but interdependent miracles: an economic miracle and a political miracle. Each miracle resulted from the implementation of a separate set of revolutionary ideas—both sets of ideas, by a curious coincidence, were formulated in documents that were published in the same year, 1776.

One set of ideas was embodied in Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, a masterpiece of economic thought. It established that an economic system could succeed only in an environment which allowed the freedom of individuals to pursue their own objectives for purely personal gain. As a consequence of such pursuits, Adam Smith declared, the individual's pursuits, when taken in mass, will be led by an invisible hand to benefit society.

The second set of ideas, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was embodied in The Declaration of Independence. It proclaimed a new nation -- the first in history to be established on a set of self-evident truths: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The success of our nation, as Milton Friedman asserts, is a consequence of the combination of these two basic ideals. Simply stated, one cannot be politically free within a system that has an ordained economic stricture. Conversely, one cannot make an unfettered economic choice, unless or until one has complete political freedom to do so. History is replete with examples of failed governments who did not recognize this truth.

The framers of the American Constitution understood this. In their quest for political freedom, they knew that economic freedom was an essential prerequisite. And economic freedom was wholly dependent on the principle of equality of human rights. While it may have taken some time for this principle to be fully accepted in every walk of life, it proved to be at the heart of the miracle we know as America.

For it is axiomatic:

Did you ever hear any sane person say: "No, I will not buy the Picasso you are selling, even though it is authentic, even though you are selling it for a price well below the market, even though I can well afford it and want it, because you are a Jew—or a Mormon—or an African American?"

No, you have not. Not in the successful markets I know.

Did you ever hear a sane employer say: "No, I cannot hire you, even though you are the only person with the exact qualifications I am seeking, and even though I can meet your employment demands, because you are Chinese—or a Catholic—or an Indian?"

No, you have not. Not in the successful markets I know.

Did you ever hear a sane proprietor say: "No, I will not sell my products to you, even though you have made the highest bid, because you are Polish—or Irish—or Black?"

No you have not. Not in the successful markets I know.

And if you did, I dare say it wasn't for long. Because in the successful markets I know, those who make decisions based on race, religion or ethnic background, rather than on the basis of competence, quality and price, are destined for the historical scrap heap. Their competitors will soon enough eat their lunch.

Ask General Motors whether Americans refused to buy Japanese cars simply because they were not made by Americans! Ask the British whether they prefer their own beef to that produced in the United States. Ask Bill Gates whether Microsoft would have succeeded if they refused to hire Chinese or Indian quants. Ask the Chicago Mercantile Exchange if it became the number one derivatives exchange by excluding Jews or Italians or women from its workforce.

The successful markets I know, are color blind—they know no distinction between race—they know nothing about ethnic origin—they are indifferent to gender. In the successful markets I know the only things that matters are price, quality and service. In the successful markets I know, the trophy goes not to the Catholic or to the Jew, not to the White or Black, not to the man or woman, it goes to the one who understood the economic principles of supply and demand.

In the successful markets I know, your personal pedigree, your family origin, your physical infirmities, your sex, are meaningless when measured against your ability to figure out what the customer wants and how to efficiently supply him with the product. Little else matters. The market rewards you when you are right, or when your quality is high, or when your service is good, and punishes you when you are wrong, or your quality is inferior, or your service is wanting no matter who your father was, no matter what he did for a living, and no matter where he came from.

No, it is not utopia yet, but I know of no other private sector establishment, I know of no other private sector entity, I know of no other private sector structure, that is more free of human prejudice and less concerned with race or religion, than are the free market structures of America.

Yes, the principles embodied in Wealth of Nations and the precepts set forth in Declaration of Independence have not only produced the miracle we know of as America, have not only triumphed over centrally planned economic systems, those same beliefs when applied in the practical world of our markets, have brought them to the leading edge of human rights and equality.

No, it is not utopia yet, but our American free markets—a model for the world to follow—have become the ultimate equalizer of race and religion, of ethnic origin and sexual gender. Look at our workforce to see the real story. Here, talent is supreme; here, hard work is rewarded; here, integrity is prized; here, excellence is absolute. All else, by any comparison, is unimportant and trivial.

This is especially true in Chicago. Just examine our financial markets. Go look at our trading floors, at the Merc, at the Board of Trade, at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, see who we employ, walk into our pits, check out our firms and their personnel and you will soon see what I mean. Religious discriminations of past eras, virtually non-existent; race barriers still practiced elsewhere, not recognizable; ethnic distinctions of consequence in other endeavors, meaningless in our work place. Indeed, with respect to human rights, the financial markets of Chicago practice what the United States Constitution preaches.

The Anti-Defamation League has fought for this principle for the 88 years of its existence. In devoting my life to the furtherance of free markets, I am inescapably joined to this ideal.

Thank you.

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