Four prominent Charleston-area residents were honored Thursday for their leadership and contributions to the Lowcountry at The Free Enterprise Foundation's annual Ethics and Civic Responsibility luncheon.

Receiving Ethics and Civic Responsibility Awards were state Sen. Paul G. Campbell Jr., R-Goose Creek; Evening Post Publishing Co. Chairman Pierre Manigault; Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. immediate past Chairman Burton R. Schools; and Trident Technical College President Mary Thornley.

All four were lauded for their work in civic, corporate, philanthropic and educational leadership.

In addition to their professional achievements, the recipients have volunteered their time in a variety of capacities to make the Lowcountry a better place, Robert E. Freer Jr., president and founder of The Free Enterprise Foundation, told the crowd.

The honorees received standing ovations during the luncheon, which was held at The Citadel's Holliday Alumni Center. The Free Enterprise Foundation is a nonprofit academic institute housed at The Citadel.

In accepting the award, Manigault told the crowd that he felt The Post and Courier was most deserving of the honor for the legacy it has left in the community. Evening Post Publishing Co. publishes the newspaper.

Keynote speaker Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the California-based Ayn Rand Institute, told the crowd that government regulation and intervention has hampered capitalism and its ability to generate innovation and wealth in this country.

Pundits blame businesses and excesses of the free market system for the sour economy, but the three industries that drove the downturn -- housing, mortgages and banking -- are among the most regulated and manipulated by government, Brook said.

People are calling for more regulation and rules when they should celebrate the contributions of free enterprise and capitalism, from iPhones to health care facilities that are the envy of the world, he said.

"Why is it at every opportunity we go against capitalism and forward with government intervention?" he asked. "Everything around us is a product of industry, a product of business and a product of whatever is left of the free market system."