Opinion | Paul Olson: Summit County’s free-market prosperity | SummitDaily.com
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Opinion | Paul Olson: Summit County’s free-market prosperity

I am inspired when I think about all the small business owners in Summit County, the creativity required to offer something customers desire and the boldness needed to take on long-term debt and commit the time needed for day-to-day management.

The rewards that may result from running a successful business are made possible by free-market capitalism. People may forget that free markets are the basis of America’s prosperity because of the media’s daily focus on government and politics, but as Calvin Coolidge said, “The chief business of the American people is business.”

In Summit County’s free market, entrepreneurs have the incentive of higher profits to motivate them to offer what people want. Prices are set by supply and demand, not by the guess of a government bureaucrat of the “correct price.”



A 2019 Gallup poll found that millennials had as favorable an opinion of socialism as they did of capitalism. This indicates a serious ignorance of what socialism truly is since a little research will provide dozens of examples of the miserable failure of socialist nations.

People may cite Denmark as evidence of socialist success; however, Denmark’s prosperity is due to free markets and protection of private property, not government intervention.



“Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen said in 2015.

The average Dane has a tax burden of approximately 45% of their income to cover a substantial public safety net, but it is free-market capitalism that provides the income for the country to be able to afford these public benefits. If Denmark had a socialist/state-controlled economy, it would likely be a much poorer country.

The effectiveness of free-market capitalism has been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a couple of months of uncertainty and shutdowns in early 2020, businesses innovated to take care of their customers and maintain as much normalcy as possible.

In Summit County, restaurants added outdoor seating, businesses made use of Zoom to maintain communication with employees, and ski resorts used reservations to keep customers safer. And it was not the government that kept Walmart and Walgreens well-supplied with merchandise during the past two years; it was free enterprise. You can also thank private companies for developing the COVID-19 vaccines that are protecting us.

The first time I visited Breckenridge, the only coffee shop I noticed was the Stage Door Cafe (now the information center on Main Street). Even though there are now eight Starbucks in Summit County, there are also many thriving independent coffee shops. These entrepreneurs are taking on the challenge of operating a business in hopes of reaping the rewards, and we are the benefactors who enjoy richer espresso and often more attentive service.

Another example of entrepreneurial spirit is the Bluebird Market food hall that just opened in Silverthorne featuring a variety of dining options. Both visitors and locals get to enjoy this latest effort by risk-takers hoping to operate a profitable business.

Summit County’s tourism-based economy presents challenges. Our product cannot be moved to the Front Range, and our customers have to drive or fly long distances in order to make a purchase. We must be offering something very special to motivate people to make such a journey.

We are ruled by the weather. If we are fortunate enough to have the peaks coated with a foot of new snow today, hoards of powder hounds will miraculously arrive tomorrow. And think of the competition we face: A potential customer in Denver could go to Steamboat Springs, Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale or just relax on the sofa and watch Netflix.

Of course, it is Summit County’s scenic beauty and recreation that is the basis of our popularity, but it is the productivity and innovation of the businesses in our free market economy that have made us a prosperous community.


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