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GUEST COLUMN: Reducing barriers to opportunity requires leadership

By: Bill Reynolds
June 24, 2017 Updated: July 31, 2017 at 8:47 am
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Each generation of Americans has overcome its unique set of challenges. This one is no different, which is why I am joining other business and philanthropic leaders, including Charles and David Koch, in Colorado Springs this weekend to help ensure that our generation overcomes the challenges we face.

For this generation, it's obvious that our country is divided. Free speech is being stifled and people are retreating to their corners of thought. Toleration for opposing points of view is vanishing.

Faith in key institutions in society is also wavering. People feel like a two-tiered society is rigged against them. Many people are correctly concluding that those in power reward the well-connected.

And then there is the reality that wage growth is still slow and taxes and regulations are stifling innovation. Finally, communities are broken and it seems as if people are no longer able to take care of themselves and their neighbors.

A prognosis like this could make anyone pessimistic about our country's future. But I remain an optimist. That's because despite our challenges, I believe that when people are free, extraordinary things are possible. And when barriers are lifted, people will transform their own lives and the lives of others.

This is what compelled me to help start the Hernando de Soto Capital Markets Program at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Hernando de Soto, the eponym of the program, is a Peruvian economist who has spent years showing why the rule of law and property rights are necessary for a free and enterprising society. The program will introduce students to these concepts through games, simulations and international experience.

Beyond securing property rights and upholding the rule of law, free enterprise needs light touch regulations so that businesses are able to grow, expand and ultimately hire additional workers. On this count, it's clear that there is work that remains here at home when considering the crushing effect overregulation has had on the economy by creating barriers to opportunity. From occupational licensing requirements forcing individuals to pay hefty fees to enter the workforce, to a one-size-fits-all approach to education that is leaving far too many behind, to a criminal justice system that delivers punishments that often exceed the crime and tears communities apart, it's clear roadblocks remain.

To take on these and other challenges, leadership is required. That's why this diverse group of men and women are gathering in beautiful Colorado Springs to ensure future generations have the same opportunities we have had to pursue success and happiness.

We've been gathering for a number of years, but I am especially excited because this gathering is taking place in my home state of Colorado. As a real estate developer for nearly 50 years in Boulder, I have seen choice and competition help improve quality and lower costs in nearly every area of society. I am convinced that the free enterprise system has done more to lift billions out of poverty than any government program.

Our group will discuss key institutions that are being tested today: education, communities, business and government. Our group stands ready to work with any lawmaker who is committed to promoting policies that help people to improve their lives. But at the end of the day, we can't rely on government to fix the root causes of what ails our country.

For that, individuals and local communities must step up. The United States was founded on the idea that individuals and communities are best suited to address most of their unique needs. Restoring faith in community-led solutions to issues like poverty and homelessness is critical to reversing the sense of hopelessness and despair so many Americans feel today.

History demonstrates the principles of a free and open society are the most effective way to help people improve their lives and make the world a more peaceful and prosperous place. This is our guiding vision, and our group intends to do everything we can to ensure this generation of Americans, from every walk of life, has the opportunity to improve his or her own life.

Generations before us have been tested and passed with flying colors. We are committed to ensuring this one is no different.

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Bill Reynolds is the founder of the W.W. Reynolds Companies, a brokerage, development, project management and real estate firm in Boulder.

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