These engines are not designed to run at maximum horsepower output all the time with a lean mixture. They are designed to cruise at 50-75% of their rated max power, and deal with that level of internal heat and friction over the long term. Even this is fairly hard compared to a car that runs at perhaps 20% of rated power when cruising at 60 mph.
Running them wide open means maximum heat, maximum wear, for not much benefit considering the power required to go faster is nearly the cube of the speed increase. You must run with the mixture full rich to keep the engine cool at all, and fuel burn is a lot higher because you are dumping unburned fuel used for cooling at full power out the exhaust. It's not worth it in other words, unless you are racing, so the concept of cruising at not more than 3/4 of rated max power is a very old convention in piston engines, and mixture leaning shouldn't really be done above that.
You can run one of these engines at full throttle with a rich mixture with the RPM near red line all the time if you want, but only if you don't mind paying for the 20 thousand dollar premature overhaul from flogging the poor engine like a mule (the exhaust valves will hate you for all eternity).
It's pretty much the same thing as hooking up a big heavy trailer to your car, that required foot on the floor all the time just to stay at highway speed. How many miles do you think that car's engine would last?(Although the Lycoming being run that hard will still probably outlast the car engine in the same shoes.)
However, when you go up, by the time you get to 8000ft, 75% of maximum output is all that is available with wide open throttle (WOT) in the thin air, so 75% cruise, normal operation, requires WOT and no harm is done. And as you go up further, you find you can't even get 50% with WOT and pretty soon you're at your service ceiling.